People choose to change their behaviour when they have a compelling interest to do so. Sometimes the reason for such a decision boils down to dissatisfaction or unhappiness with the status quo; the consequences of not changing are too hurtful or unpalatable. Richard Beckhard and Rubin Harris offer this classic equation regarding change resistance:
dissatisfaction x desirability x practicality > resistance to change
Dissatisfaction is an emotional reaction that is so negative it prevents a person from continuing routine or usual functioning. Although it is a negative experience, dissatisfaction provides a motivation to change. Desirability is the emotional reward for making a change. It is the “what is in it for me” driver.
Practicality is the realistic, attainable, and emotional acceptance of the change. It is willingness and trust to believe in a doable and practical alternative to maintaining the status quo.
Keep in mind that when it comes to behaviour and the brain, we are talking biology not psychology. f-MRI studies show beliefs are generated by complex recurrent firing of patterns of neurons accompanied by subtle but very specific changes in hormones and neurotransmitters. This brain activity is developed by experience and linked to the feelings that experience engenders. In other words, our brains are hardwired by experience and feelings about dissatisfaction, desirability, and practicality. The stronger the positive or negative feeling and the more frequent the experience, the more we become hardwired to behave the way we do. Remember the neuroscience adage – brain cells that fire together, wire together. To change behaviour you must first use experience to change beliefs. A person must be convinced that the change will improve performance, outcomes, and workplace satisfaction.
Your outward circumstances are always perfectly aligned with your inner thinking. You are the cause of your circumstances. Consequently we cannot change our circumstances without first changing our thoughts. Do not find yourself cursing your outward circumstances all the while you are feeding their cause. Transformational change is directly linked to the cause and effect relationship of our thinking.
Nothing changes until our thinking changes. You can behave your way into better thinking only if you are willing to trust the new behaviour. For most people, change works in the other direction – thinking about, and the emotion that comes from dissatisfaction with the status quo, and the desire for something better, drive me to try something new in behaviour. Change your thinking, you change behaviour. Change behaviour and you change the outcome.
Say No to the Status Quo
Influential leaders are highly dissatisfied with ‘status quo’. They are unwilling to allow preventable pain and suffering to continue needlessly. They are unwilling to waste precious resources and to settle for second-rate productivity and financial performance. Volition enables dissatisfied leaders to make a choice to bring back emotional meaning and purpose to their work. In addition, volition increases the desirability factor in the change equation. People will likely voluntarily change their behaviour if they are told the “why” (the conviction) before they are taught the “what” (convincing) and the “how” (compelling). This concept has existed in neuroscience and in clinical psychology for a long time. Simon Sinek has been able, most recently, to talk about “begin with why” in a way that is resonating throughout multiple industries and leadership boardrooms.
Suffice it to say, all great innovation, really big changes, are inspired by the concept of “why” – the purpose, the cause, and the belief in what many peak performers refer to as the ‘urgency imperative’. If you inspire me by raising my level of dissatisfaction with the status quo, raising my level of desire by demonstrating the benefits, and showing me that what you are asking me to do is practical, doable and achievable, then you increase the likelihood of me embracing the change. To change behaviour you must first use experience to change your thinking of previously held beliefs. Experience generates knowledge and emotion that inform future experiences. The more positive the feelings and the more direct the linkage to experience, the more likely thinking and beliefs are to change. When thinking and beliefs change (dissatisfaction, desirability, practicality) so do behaviours.
When you are ready to change, start with the skill of Positive Presence, an innovative thought model connecting workplace behaviour to human energy and provides a systematic, programmatic methodology for equipping leaders with the knowledge and understanding necessary for developing and sustaining the thought and behaviour skills needed for influential leadership.
One of the key characteristics of influential leaders is their ability to stimulate volition in themselves and among their followers. They do this by creating a sense of urgency, living a life with purpose, and pursuing excellence. When we choose to take this step in our leadership behaviour, we will see profound impact on our resulting outcomes, goals, and objectives. As research indicates, actively motivated and engaged team members work harder, have less instances of loss, and reduced errors, mistakes, tardiness, and sick leave. This occurs because the connection forged through behaviour change impacts those who work with us to pursue excellence and focus less on the conviction of just doing their jobs. As Simon Sinek (Start with Why) suggests, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”
If you believe that change is hard, wait until you are experiencing the painful effect of not changing. Life experience provides little mercy to those who are unwilling to change. So here is the question to ponder: do the brains of your people light up in the high performance areas of their brains when you walk into the room or when you walk out?